Real or Artificial Christmas Trees – which is greener?

16th November 2012 posted in Home Lifestyle

Real or Artificial Christmas Trees – which is greener?

OK so I should start by saying that I really, really want the answer to be “real” trees. I want real Christmas trees to more environmentally friendly. The first ever fake Christmas trees were made by a company that specialised in manufacturing toilet brushes, which says it all, really.  BUT science pays little attention to décor chic, so lets have a look at facts on what makes a truly green Christmas tree.







Are reusable trees better?

The answer’s not an obvious one – real trees, as natural as they are, of course take a lot of resources to grow and transport. The main selling point with fake trees is that you can use them over and over again – surely better for the environment?

Well it would be, if people really did keep and reuse fake trees for the 20 years or more that it would take to give them a lower carbon footprint that a series of real trees. As it stands, people keep and reuse fake trees for an average of 6 years – that’s 1 point for real trees, then.

Carbon-absorbing advantages

Back to the growing stage with real trees – surely that’s going take a heck of a lot of watering. Well in some cases, yes, but it’s offset by the way that these trees clean our atmosphere. An acre of Douglas fir trees absorbs 11, 308 pounds of carbon dioxide per year (Carbon Trust). 



What’s more, many local authorities now collect used Christmas trees and plant them on areas like motorway banks. These hardy trees create foliage in such areas where other plants struggle to grow. Here, their carbon-absorbing properties kick back into action for decades to come. 

To-ing and fro-ing


How about transporting the trees? Well, trees have to be transported to shops, or to homes, from where they’re grown. If local authorities don’t collect them, you might have to drive them to the tip to get rid of them. But compared to mass importing of fake trees from China, this adds up to a lower carbon footprint. 

And the winner is…


To sum up, The Carbon Trust has helpfully totted up the figures for us and states that a 6ft fake tree, taking into account manufacture, transport, and landfill emissions, is as damaging to the environment as toasting 5,222 slices of bread. A real tree, however, tots up just 418 slices of bread.

So unless you plan to keep a fake tree for many decades (and who would, when manufacturing quality and fashions are bound to change?), then real trees come out on top as the real environmental winner. And for the design conscious, that’s a big relief, too.


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